In last week's post, you read about the primary election that took place in Virginia. Statewide primaries and local races got some of our citizens out to vote. One particular race was highlighted – the primaries for Commonwealth's Attorney – which will heat up even more in November when the general election takes place.
Last week's elections had something in common with many other elections here in this region and across the country -- yard signs. Many of us love to use yard signs to show our support for a particular candidate. By the time the election rolled around this past Tuesday, you knew who was running based on the signs in people's yards. Those signs are an opportunity for a voice -- and a potential place for legal trouble.
Putting Campaign Signs in the Wrong Places:
Putting a campaign sign in one's yard is a legal exercise in free speech, according to the law. Virginia law takes away any locality's ability to prohibit the use of campaign signs that otherwise meet zoning and right-of-way laws. However, according to the Commonwealth's Attorney, Michael Doucette, there could still be some issues. As is often the case when a local election rolls around, Doucette wrote a letter to the editor of the local newspaper warning Lynchburgers about the laws surrounding political yard signs leading up to the most recent election.
In that letter, he said that "(p)osting a sign on any private or city property without the owner’s consent is a Class 3 misdemeanor, punishable by a maximum fine of $500." He goes on to say that "city property" as used in that quote includes the area between a curb and a sidewalk. Isn't that interesting? How often have you driven down a road and seen a sign stuck in the ground next to the road? Did you know that the owner of that sign may have been violating the law? Most people do not.
Removing Campaign Signs Improperly:
Doucette's letter included one other way to get in trouble with campaign signs: removing them when they should not be removed. When this occurs, it is considered petit larceny, a topic this blog has covered before. When the value of the stolen item is less than $200 (like a campaign sign, for instance), it is petit larceny, which is a Class 1 misdemeanor.
This came up last year during the 2016 presidential election. Donald Trump signs were occasionally stolen from people's yards. One lady in particular equipped herself with a stack of signs so that she could keep replacing them as they were stolen.
Campaign signs are a wonderful way to show your patriotism and your democratic participation. As is often the case, however, they are an easy way to end up in trouble. If this is you, call or e-mail today for a free consultation!
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